Day: April 16, 2013

New Homebuyer Guide

A lot of people have asked me for advice on buying a home in the last few months.  This makes me laugh a little because I was a total spazz when buying mine but maybe you all can learn from my mistakes!

So here goes:


1. Make a list of 10 must haves and be willing to compromise on half of those things.  I had no interest in building.  Thought my budget was about 75k less than I ended up spending, wasn’t thinking of an income property and was looking at Daybreak instead of Draper.  All those things changed. I also had to compromise on wanting an island in the kitchen and have a non-private back yard that isn’t ideal for entertaining.

2. Focus on the monthly payment not the total price.  That’s what got me to expand my budget. Once I divided it down it became less overwhelming.  Also, don’t forget to include HOAs, taxes and other expenses into your pricing decision.

3. Someone told me to plan on the house finishing 30 days after the cabinets installed.  It was I think 35 days.  Pretty good advice.

4. If trying to get FHA loan make sure FHA approvals are in for the unit you are buying.  FHA is whacked out and they can refuse a unit within a complex that everything else is approved. It took me an additional month to get FHA approval on the house and it was super stressful.

5. Have a mortgage broker you can trust.  Mine was fabulous.  Marc and Christopher at City Creek Home Mortgages were very patient.  One time Marc went through all the fees and escrows of my home purchase and then after talking with my uncle I was freaking out and he explained it all over again to me.  Can’t ask much more than that.

Their rates were also competitive with others that I checked.

6. FHA loans are low down payment (I think I paid 3% plus closing costs), mortgage insurance for first 5 years but a lower interest rate.  Traditional loans have higher interest rate, no mortgage insurance and at least a 10% downpayment.  I decided I was diving into my house for the long haul so I went with the lower interest rate and capital fluidity FHA loan gave me.

7.  Do as much of the packing early on as you can.  I did pretty well with this one.  I also recommend buying a packet of boxes from Uhaul.  It is very reasonable and if you don’t use any they will buy them back.  I needed so many boxes! The nice thing about the Uhaul boxes is they have handles and are really sturdy.

8.  It might take a long time.  It might not to find the place for you.  I was surprised how quickly I decided to build.  I also always thought I would need tons of time to weigh my options and make such a big decision, but when it came down to it there is a finite number of factors and at a certain point I was just mulling over the same stats again and again.  Just make the decision your gut tells you to make.

10.  Find a realtor that gels with your personality and style.  If you want someone who will work quickly and be proactive find that kind of realtor.  If you want someone that will be cool and relaxed, no pressure, find that type.  Mine was the latter.  Since most sellers pay realtor fees I don’t see why anyone would want to brave buying a house alone.  Why not!

11. Think about the potential of an area.  Look at what is being built around it and if there are any vacant lots or construction planned.  I know my location is always going to be hot because of the closeness to the freeway and the new adobe building, ikea, outlets, etc.  Up in Suncrest is a little bit more removed, which could be a good or bad thing.

12. Get a therapist.  I know you think I am joking but I’m so glad I had one.  It was a very anxious time for me.  So many decisions to make, so much to do, so much waiting (that’s the hardest part) and so much out of your control.  I can imagine a therapist would be good for a couple as well (of course, I think that is generally a good idea for couples.  Call me crazy!).  It’s just a tough time.

13. Find out rules and restrictions of your area for special projects.  This would have saved me a lot of grief with my income property.  When the range got unapproved I panicked.  It didn’t have anything to do with safety but a multi-family code.  I don’t think I would have done anything differently because it has all worked out but it would have saved some anxious moments.

14. Be nice to your friends.  You will need them for the move 😉 (Some wards don’t do moves any more I discovered)

15. Find projects you can do right away to keep yourself from going nuts.  Pick out paint colors or get a patio set.  Whatever.  I had a lot of fun designing my curtains, closets and furniture before I moved and it least helped me feel somewhat productive.   (Although make sure you have enough to pay your downpayment!

16.  Don’t buy a house over Christmas!  That was super hard.

17. I know I initially felt some anxiety about getting pre-approved.  It’s a really easy process and doesn’t commit you to anything.  You are not committed to that lender (and in some cases builders have particular lenders they want you to use for preapproval).

18. Get ready to sign your name like a million times, middle name included.

19. You will probably gain 10-15 lbs while waiting and moving and that’s ok.  (or maybe that is just me…)

20. It’s a hard experience for everyone but the most seasoned buyers.  It’s ok to freak out and have break downs.  Its a big deal.

21.  Throw a open house and celebrate your move in! (Another fun thing to plan while waiting).  I did a big custom cake and told all my friends.  You don’t have to do that but its nice to show your house to all your friends.

22.  Outsource!  I outsourced light fixture installation, tv mounting, artwork placement, setting up my grill, furniture assembly.  Best money I ever spent.  Plus, you get references that can be used throughout the life of your home.

23. Splurge on at least 1 item.  For me it was my black out curtains.  You are buying a house.  Don’t be a cheapskate on everything.

24. Don’t forget to look out for storage.  Be open to creative solutions, like in my basement apartment we used a pocket door and set up shelving in the closet under the stairs to make it more usable.  It was not expensive and works great.   I also spent $453 to put storage in the garage.  Great investment

25.  If you have an income property call references, and get to know them a little bit. Usually a nice place will get you nice tenants. And don’t enter their apartment without their approval unless it is an emergency.   I also spent $300 to put insulation in the ceiling boards to give them more privacy and so they’d have less upstairs noise.  Well worth it.  I kept thinking if I lived there what would I want? As I lived in a basement apartment for 2 years it was easy to answer!

26. Hold a family/group meal soon after you move in.  It just makes a house a home.

27. It’s ok to house brag a little.  I felt kind of guilty at first that I was showing off but none of my friends cared.  I figure they had to hear all the complaining, the least I could do is let them in on some of the joy.

28. Don’t forget to think ahead.  My friend’s husband bought his house before they had met and didn’t think of getting good closets being a man and all.  Your life might change and you need a place with at least a little bit of flexibility and that you won’t grow out of in 2 years.

29. Get ready and go for it.  It is super hard.  No doubt about it but it is worth it.

30.  Pray before putting in your offer for confirmation it is right.  Pray for strength, peace, assurance and help.  Also, once you have moved in have the house dedicated in some way.  In our church there is a prayer for that but it could be a new agey thing.  Whatever.  I think it helps with a sense of closure to the buying process and the beginning of living in your house.

So that’s my advice.  Good luck in your search.

framing house

Went through all the stress of a home build
Went through all the stress of a home build




Fitness Challenge

For a good laugh take a look at the story of Tanya the Trainer.

Rachel's Musings

This week I am starting a new fitness challenge with my friends.  It is sort of like the show Biggest Loser where 10 of us are competing to see who can lose the most weight at the end of 12 weeks.  To make it more motivating most of us are contributing $25 to a pool for the winner.  I don’t know if I will win (some of the girls are exercising hours a day!) but the process will be a win in and of itself.  I feel more motivated than I have in years.  I’ve always hated dieting but this time I feel like I am doing it with friends- because I am!  It is also fun because my sister Anna has joined in.  Since we will be together more starting in September it is nice to know we can support each other. I will keep the blog updated on…

View original post 805 more words

Knowing in Your Heart

My awesome friend Adrienne has just started a blog about her experiences coming back to the Mormon church in a unique way.

Her thoughts about creating a ‘hope testimony’ made me think about how I have reconciled the same issues for myself.  I love that she has found a happy solution in her life and am totally inspired by her efforts, and it made think about me and my own unique internal struggle to believe.

I suppose it is easy to think on such things when tragedy strikes as it did today in Boston.  My friend Tracy, frequent commenter on this blog, was racing and even though I don’t know her well I felt great concern for her safety.  It just made it all feel more real to know someone there.  It also struck home because I participate in group sporting events all the time.   Each time I enter a masters meet or a marathon swim I put my trust in strangers.  I hope that goodness and a spirit of friendly competition will prevail and thankfully it always has.

Anyway, back to my own reconciliation of faith.  Here’s how I feel.  There are some things I know in my mind and some things I know in my heart.  I know that 2+2=4 in my mind.  That is a truth.   I know that my name is Rachel Wagner and that my parents are John and Jane.  I know any number of facts and data.  I also know that gravity is a true principle.  I know that being a good listener is important to relationships.  There are a lot of things I know in my mind and many more things that I need to learn.

Then there are things I know in my heart.  I know my parents love me because I have felt it in my heart.  I know that good and evil exist because I have felt the presence of both in my soul or heart. I know when something is just and also unjust.  I can’t explain it but I know. I know that my Heavenly Father lives and loves me because I have felt it in my heart.

Do I have any proof of this?  Yes, the proof is in my heart.  That is not proof I can transfer to another individual easily but it is nevertheless truth (why the righteous virgins could not give their lamp oil to another.  They could just as easily rip out their hearts).  That is the reason I can say I ‘know the church is true’.  Not because of data or statistics.  It’s because I know it in my heart.  I have felt it again and again and living its principles has always left me with a confirmation in my heart.

Do I blame people for not believing?  No.  I think they all can have this same confirmation, but it takes a sincere and willing heart coupled with the correct timing of God. As Moroni says “ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.  ”  He is not talking about a worldly manifestation.  Such data and facts are not the kind of thing that can stabilize a life.  They can often be disproven and explained away with the next passing fad.  Knowledge in your heart is a different story.

It can be a concept that is  is hard to explain.  All I can say is I know the gospel is true in my heart.  I got a witness when I was a young girl and it has never steered me wrong or abandoned me.  It has always been in my pocket for hard times.  I know in my heart that President Monson is a prophet and that God reveals his promises to all of his children in all eras. I know in my heart that families can be eternal and that covenants are real.  I know in my heart that the priesthood is real and direct authority from Christ.

That’s what makes sense to me. So you can tell me all kinds of data about Joseph Smith, Church history, or the Book of Mormon and it does not matter because such data is not what my testimony is about.  (and yes I’ve heard it ALL before). The Book of Mormon could be based on a cartoon and I wouldn’t care.  My testimony is not about any of the data.  Its a truth from the heart.

I believe this is even true for God.  He knows how weak and frail we are.  He has all that data of every moment that we reject Him; yet His heart loves anyway.   This is why I have always thought of a testimony as a relationship with God.  Just as relationships with humans ebb and flow so does our relationship with God.  Relationships are not based on data but on the heart. Data also has finite limits; whereas, a relationship can always be better, stronger, more in-depth and close.

I would challenge all of you to think about how you know or do not know and how life makes sense for you?  Have the integrity to write it out and  share it.  There is no judgment here- Merely a process of figuring out this crazy thing called mortality.  Maybe I can learn something from you, and you learn something from me?  Maybe we can learn something in our minds and hearts?

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love” Ephesians 3:17.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Collossians 3:15


PS. I think it goes without saying that my thoughts and prayers go out to the city of Boston, all the runners and all affected by the tragedy.

Some of my other religious posts